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Paula Fox, 03, Cuban-American novelist; Newberryist kid lit author (Hi, Lenona)
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That Derek
2017-03-04 05:12:01 UTC
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http://www.tulsaworld.com/scene/ap/paula-fox-prize-winning-author-dead-at/article_44aa0898-0d2a-5e10-a870-d6afc9aead96.html

Paula Fox, prize winning author, dead at 93

Posted: Friday, March 3, 2017 4:12 pm | Updated: 4:30 pm, Fri Mar 3, 2017.

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Paula Fox, a prize-winning author who created high art out of imagined chaos in such novels as "Poor George" and "Desperate Characters" and out of the real-life upheavals in her memoir "Borrowed Finery," has died at age 93.

Her daughter, Linda Carroll, told The Associated Press that Fox died Wednesday at Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. She had been in failing health.

Abandoned as a girl by her parents, a single mother before age 20, Fox used the most finely crafted prose to write again and again about breakdown and disruption, what happens under the "surface of things." In "Poor George," her debut novel, Fox told of a bored school teacher and the teen vagrant who upends his life. "Desperate Characters," her most highly regarded work of fiction, is a portrait of New York City's civic and domestic decline in the 1960s, a plague symbolized by the bite of a stray cat.

"It seems to me that in life, behind all these names and things and people and forces, there's a dark energy," Fox told The Associated Press in 2011.

Her work was out of print for years, but she enjoyed a late-life revival thanks to the admiration of such younger authors as Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Lethem. She lived for decades in Brooklyn and was a revered figure in the New York City borough's thriving literary community.

Her other books included the novels "A Servant's Tale," ''The Western Coast" and a memoir about living in Europe after World War II, "The Coldest Winter." Fox also wrote more than a dozen children's books, including "The Slave Dancer," winner of the Newbery medal in 1974. "Borrowed Finery," published in 2001, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award.

She might have written more novels, but a head injury sustained from a mugging in Jerusalem in the 1990s left her unable to write long fiction. She instead began working on memoirs and shorter pieces.

Born in New York City in 1923, Fox was the daughter of novelist-screenwriter Paul Fox and fellow screenwriter Elsie Fox. Paula Fox remembered her father as a drunk given to "interminable, stumbling descriptions of the ways in which he and fellow writers tried to elude domesticity." Her mother was a "sociopath" who kicked her out of the house as a young girl. Fox lived everywhere from a plantation in Cuba to a boarding school in Montreal.

"My life was incoherent to me," Fox wrote in "Borrowed Finery." ''I felt it quivering, spitting out broken teeth."

If only she could have gathered all the people she met and placed them in a single room. Living in Hollywood in the 1930s and '40s, she danced with John Wayne and encountered John Barrymore, "yellowing with age like the ivory keys of a very old piano." Marlon Brando was a friend and Courtney Love is her granddaughter, born to the woman Carroll) whom a 19-year-old Fox gave up for adoption. Her brother-in-law, Clement Greenberg, was among the 20th century's most influential art critics.

Although a devoted reader since childhood, she didn't publish until past 40. She worked for years as a teacher and as a tutor for troubled children and was married briefly for a second time, to Richard Sigerson, with whom she had two sons. She finally settled down with her third husband, translator and Commentary editor Martin Greenberg, whom she met after he had rejected a story she submitted for the magazine.

In "The Coldest Winter," Fox wrote that living abroad had liberated her mind, "showing me something other than myself." Her early fiction included the stories "Lord Randall" and "The Living," narrated in colloquial style by black characters and published in the mid-1960s by Negro Digest. In "The Slave Dancer," a young boy is captured and forced on to a slave ship.

"I've never been a slave. I've never been black. I was never on a ship. But I have a certain narrow understanding of certain kinds of characters, and of evil and kindness and goodness and tenderness," Fox told the AP.

But by the 1990s her work was forgotten by all but her most determined admirers — one of them was Franzen. The future author of "Freedom" and "The Corrections" came upon "Desperate Characters" while at the Yaddo writers colony in 1991. In a Harper's magazine essay about American fiction, he called "Desperate Characters" an overlooked masterpiece.

Author Tom Bissell, then a paperback editor at W.W. Norton, read the essay and wondered why he hadn't heard of the novel. He looked in stores, without luck, and finally got in touch with Fox, who sent him one of her copies. Norton has since reissued all of Fox's adult novels, with introductory essays by Franzen and others.

"I'd never heard of Paula Fox, except as an author of children's books, before an editor pushed 'Desperate Characters' at me three years ago. Three years later she's a favorite, and an influence on my own work," Lethem wrote in his introduction to "Poor George," re-published in 2001.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.
That Derek
2017-03-04 05:13:08 UTC
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CORRECTION: aged 93 (not 03)
l***@yahoo.com
2017-03-04 19:50:22 UTC
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Saw the obit in the New York Times today, thank you.

Regarding the last paragraphs from Tulsa World (about "Desperate Characters") -
Post by That Derek
But by the 1990s her work was forgotten by all but her most determined admirers — one of them was Franzen. The future author of "Freedom" and "The Corrections" came upon "Desperate Characters" while at the Yaddo writers colony in 1991. In a Harper's magazine essay about American fiction, he called "Desperate Characters" an overlooked masterpiece.
Author Tom Bissell, then a paperback editor at W.W. Norton, read the essay and wondered why he hadn't heard of the novel. He looked in stores, without luck, and finally got in touch with Fox, who sent him one of her copies. Norton has since reissued all of Fox's adult novels, with introductory essays by Franzen and others.
"I'd never heard of Paula Fox, except as an author of children's books, before an editor pushed 'Desperate Characters' at me three years ago. Three years later she's a favorite, and an influence on my own work," Lethem wrote in his introduction to "Poor George," re-published in 2001.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.
- the cover of that novel was shown in the NYT obit.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/books/paula-fox-dead.html?_r=0

Excerpts:

..."Desperate Characters," published in 1970, was about the disintegration of a marriage. It was made into a film of the same title starring Shirley MacLaine and Kenneth Mars...

...As a stylist, she was known for her impeccable, almost anatomical, depictions of the material world. In the Paula Fox universe, objects take on heightened importance, as if rearing up to fill the gaps left by characters’ failure to make real connections. This is painfully evident in the opening scene of “Desperate Characters,” which examines the brittle marriage of a professional couple — yuppies long before the term was coined — living in a fine Brooklyn home:

“Mrs. and Mrs. Otto Bentwood drew out their chairs simultaneously. As he sat down, Otto regarded the straw basket which held slices of French bread, an earthenware casserole filled with sautéed chicken livers, peeled and sliced tomatoes on an oval willowware platter Sophie had found in a Brooklyn Heights antique shop, and risotto Milanese in a green ceramic bowl. A strong light, somewhat softened by the stained glass of a Tiffany shade, fell upon this repast.”

In the pages that follow, Sophie is bitten by a stray cat, an event that sets in motion the dissolution of her marriage to Otto. The great risk of being alive, nearly all of Ms. Fox’s work seemed to say, is that anything can happen to anyone at any time...

Also:

...She was awarded the Newbery Medal, considered the Pulitzer Prize of children’s literature, in 1974 for “The Slave Dancer,” a controversial novel centered on the Atlantic slave trade in the mid-19th century...

...Ms. Fox’s other honors include the Hans Christian Andersen Award, which she received in 1978 for her body of children’s work.

Given the subject matter of Ms. Fox’s books, it is not surprising that some reviewers called them depressing. This did not sit well with her.

“Children know about pain and fear and unhappiness and betrayal,” she said in an interview quoted in the reference work Contemporary Authors. “And we do them a disservice by trying to sugarcoat dark truths. There is an odd kind of debauchery I’ve noticed, particularly in societies that consider themselves ‘democratic’ or ‘liberal’: They display the gory details but hide meaning, especially if it is ambiguous or disturbing.”

(end)


Wonder what Courtney will be saying - or C's daughter, Frances Bean.

More obits:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&authuser=0&q=paula+fox&oq=paula+fox&gs_l=news-cc.3..43j43i53.2034.5065.0.5219.11.9.0.2.2.0.162.619.8j1.9.0...0.0...1ac.1.vPi0Q4new5E#hl=en&gl=us&authuser=0&q=paula+fox+93&*

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n24/dd-guttenplan/gorgon-in-furs
(book review from 2002)

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.arts.books.childrens/-O1K97trZK8
(my birthday post to her from 2013)

Excerpts:


In 1978, she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. (The only other living American recipient for an HCA Award for Writing is Katherine Paterson.)

Other well-known titles of hers are "The Stone-Faced Boy," "Blowfish Live in the Sea," "One-Eyed Cat," and "Monkey Island" (about homelessness)...

...About "The Stone-Faced Boy": "Only his strange great-aunt seems to understand the thoughts of a boy who has spent his life concealing his emotions, on an eerie, snowy night after rescuing a dog that dislikes him." (That's the one where the boy is given a geode.)

http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2057/Fox-Paula-1923.html

(excerpt from that article)

...In both Fox's children's and adult novels, her characters suffer through tragic situations for which there are no simple solutions, and this has led some critics to categorize her as an author of serious and depressing works. Fox has at times been frustrated by this label. "People are always saying my work is 'depressing,'" she told Feitlowitz. "But what does that mean? They said Desperate Characters was depressing too, and it's been reissued twice. I'm so used to having the word 'depressing' tied to me I feel like a dog accustomed to the tin can around its neck. The charge can still make me angry, not because of how it might reflect on my work, but because of what it tells me about reading in this country. Is Anna Karenina depressing? Is Madame Bovary? 'Depressing,' when applied to a literary work is so narrow, so confining, so impoverished and impoverishing. This yearning for the proverbial 'happy ending' is little more than a desire for oblivion."


Lenona.

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